Shortly after Beatrice Patton buried her husband, Gen. George S. Patton Jr., on Christmas Eve 1945, she summoned a woman named Jean Gordon to her hotel room in Boston.
Gen. Patton, after a lifetime of military service, and grand achievements in World War II, had suffered a broken neck in a car accident in Germany on Dec. 9, 1945. He died Dec. 21, and was buried in a military cemetery in Luxembourg.
The Pattons had been married for 35 years, with minimal domestic turmoil, except for an apparent dalliance the general had with Gordon in 1936, according to Patton biographer, Carlo D’Este.
Gordon was 21, and the daughter of Beatrice’s half sister. Patton was 50, and in the midst of a midlife, between-wars crisis. The Pattons were then stationed in Hawaii, and Gordon was passing through, headed for Asia.
Gordon “made a play” for the general, D’Este wrote, and after Patton and Gordon returned from an unchaperoned trip to another island, Beatrice realized that they were having an affair, he wrote. The incident nearly destroyed the Pattons’ marriage, left Beatrice crushed and the general stricken with remorse. Over the next 10 years, the marriage was salvaged, and the general went on to become a legendary, if controversial, figure in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
But Gordon had reappeared in Europe during the war, alarming Beatrice.
And now, with the war over and her famous husband buried, Beatrice wanted to see Gordon. She asked her brother, Fred Ayer, to set up the meeting. Neither he nor Gordon knew the purpose. They arrived first. When Beatrice appeared, she took off her hat and coat, looked angrily at Gordon and pointed a finger at her.
“May the Great Worm gnaw your vitals,” Beatrice pronounced, uttering what D’Este said was a feared curse she had learned in Hawaii years before. “And may your bones rot joint by little joint.”
Gordon turned gray, and Ayer ran from the room.
It’s not known what else was said between the two women, but a few days later, on Jan. 8, 1946, Gordon was found dead in the New York City apartment of a friend. She was discovered on the floor of the kitchen with the oven gas turned on, and had committed suicide. She was 30. One news service said pictures of the general were strewn around her.
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